Wednesday, May 26, 2010

By Special Request - More Honolulu Pics

So Thomas from At My Porch asked me to post some pictures of other buildings he liked and knew from his time in Honolulu a couple years back.  In fact there are some quite remarkable structures here and it might take me awhile to get around to all of them, once I start compiling my own list.  I'll start above with the Hawaii State Art Museum which is located right across the street from Iolani Palace and the State Capitol.  It looks like a big pink cake from the front which I find very pleasing.  Inside is a very nice selection of mostly Hawaiian artists.  It's definitely worth a visit if you are in town.  You will be very impressed by the collection, the level of craftsmanship and sophistication of the ideas incorporated into the art making.

There is also a good little restaurant in here called DownTown (open for lunch only) which has a sister restaurant called Town in Kaimuki (Honolulu neighborhood overlooking the Diamond Head crater).  The food is extremely fresh Mediterranean style cuisine made daily (lots of vegetables, lightly prepared, but savory with flavors allowed to announce themselves)  with a slight island twist and a huge proportion of the ingredients locally produced.  The Town family are very proud to be part of the Slow Food movement.  Eating at one or the other of these is always a highlight of my visits.  

I also posted this building because of the stories associated with it.  It was once the place on land that U.S. servicemen would come to during WWII for help, food, a shower, whatever it was they needed before or after stretching their legs around and about Honolulu.  Apparently it was not uncommon that the polished floor of the lobby would be covered at night with the bodies of sleeping servicemen who had not managed other arrangements after their nights on the town.  It's an image that you have to chuckle at.

Here is the Alexander and Baldwin building, one that Thomas requested.  It is an elegant, imposing Italianate structure.  Beautiful decorated with graceful ornaments and tile in a fusion of art nouveau and Chinese vernacular styles.

I'm morally ambivalent about this building because it was built by the offspring of missionaries who became extremely wealthy during their time in Hawaii and undoubtedly profited from the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy.  They are some of the largest landowners in Hawaii, having been involved in the sugar and pineapple plantations as well as now owning the shipping entity that has a virtual monopoly on transportation of almost everything between Hawaii and the mainland and around the South Pacific.  But there is no question that whoever was responsible for this building at A&B had excellent taste or excellent judgement in architectural advice.

Get aload of the Kanaka (Hawaiian) feet in the rubber slippers.  You don't see those kine everyday!

Beautiful chinese carvings.  Lotsa limestone.

In England this would be called Edwardian tile work I think.  Not sure exactly what date we're working from here.  Maybe Thomas will know.

A soupcon of Spanish/Moorish style in the tiles, LOVE LOVE those limestone planters with the carved feet.  Where have you ever seen anything like that?  Love the laciness of the coral.

Planter details, in case you want to recreate this at your house!

Gorgeous doors and entry ways.

Next up the Brewer House.  This house was difficult to photograph because a narrow mall and then a highrise were pressed right up against it from the front and you can see from the back it was also squeezed by skyscrapers.  Also built for one of the "Big Five" families/entities who had the Hawaiian economy in their grip during the "territorial" days.  The Brewers eventually sold many of their holdings to A&B.

I would say this is a blend of Asian and Spanish/Moorish styles.  (Thomas help me out!)  But it's beautiful

in its sobriety and its volumes, the warmth of the stones used to construct it, its positive and negative spaces, Japanese roof lines, and tiling which contribute a wonderful heft and texture.  As well as lightening the whole via the subtly reflective quality of the roof tiles.  It's a wonderful example/precursor of a residential style that has been reproduced with varying degrees of success across the islands.

Love this entry way.  Aren't you convinced that inside it would be a cool and soothing atmosphere where only murmuring goes on and refreshing drinks are served?

A couple more examples.  The one above dates from the late 1870's.  I would call it a sort of Victorian Italianate melange.  The chunkiness blended with the lacey-ness is very typical of local styles from that time.

More chunkiness and great texture with local lava stone in a building that was occupied by Japanese merchants I'm guessing.  And pretty classically Victorian brick and paintwork behind.

A window 

at the Honolulu Police Department!  This must have been the very first Police Station in Honolulu.  Pretty Spanish huh?  But still so pretty.  They haven't tried to ruin improve it.

And remember that deco Fire Station from my earlier post?  Here's what's using up all its airspace these days.  Can't stop progress apparently!  All of this can be walked and seen in less than an hour and is steps from Chinatown.  On the other hand, there's something called the beach............

For more Hawaii architecture posts see my LABELS on the right.  

Thanks to all of you who left such nice comments on the last post.  It's always tough to untangle the homecoming feelings every time I come back so that was harder to "write" than I expected it to be.  So nice you "got" it!

Aloha!  Ahui Hou!


  1. Wow, how fun. How did you know I meant the A&B building when I said Castle and Cooke? Is it the same thing now? I forget. I would say the Brewer House is really just Asian. It shares some things in common with the Spanish Mission style but I think it may be a more purely Asian in its own right. But trust me, I am no expert on style.

    I love the old Police Department building. I used work just behind the Italianate building with the porch. I used to sit right next to in that little park sometimes on my lunch hour.

  2. I love these Hawaiian architecture posts. I have never been and the look is so different and varied. Makes me want to go.

  3. Wow, what a beautiful city.